The Florida Panthers will officially announce the reorganization of its hockey operations department on Monday morning.
Aside from new titles and some new responsibilities, the Panthers say the way they do business won’t change much.
Dale Tallon, the team’s general manager since 2010, is now president of hockey operations and will head up a team that includes new GM Tom Rowe as well as new assistant GMs Eric Joyce and Steve Werier.
Rowe becomes the 10th general manager in the franchise’s 23 years.
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“We’ve all worked well together for a short period of time and I don’t think there’s any reason to think we won’t work well together long term.” Tallon said Sunday. “It’s worked so far. I don’t see any bad things here. It’s good to have different voices, opinions and points of view. A lot of teams are doing it this way.”
Although Tallon had free reign and was mostly solely responsible for the players brought in over the years — former assistant GM Mike Santos played a large role in that as well — that hasn’t been the case over the past few months.
Tallon and his management team, which includes executive chairman Peter Luukko as well as scouts, owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu, will continue to discuss and debate future moves and changes.
With Rowe, Werier and Joyce taking on most of the day-to-day operations, Tallon is free to do the things he describes as his best attributes.
“It’s a pretty nice deal,” Tallon said shortly after arriving in South Florida from scouting the World Championships in Russia on Sunday evening.
“Nothing has changed as far as my goals and my ambition to win the Stanley Cup. This just frees me up to do more of what I’m in tune with: scouting, mentoring and developing. I’m going to spend more time on that. I’ve been doing contracts and other day-to-day operations for a long time. It kind of wears you out.”
Rowe, who has been with the organization since 2013, says he doesn’t have the traditional power of a general manager as the department is now based on collaboration.
“In our setup, it’s not a decision-making position,” he said. “Dale is the president of hockey ops and Peter Luukko is above all of us.”
Joyce and Werier now have official titles that better reflect the jobs they had already been entrusted.
“As far as working with Dale goes, nothing is changing,” said Rowe, who was promoted from Florida’s AHL coach to Tallon’s associate GM in January. “Basically I’m working under him, assisting him and helping him execute what he’s laid out as our long-term plan for us and his vision. Dale brought me into this organization, and I’m loyal to him. I appreciate the opportunity he’s given me.”
A lot of the day-to-day responsibilities had already been picked up by Rowe, Joyce and Werier with plenty of work forthcoming — the NHL Draft is in June and Florida needs to re-sign restricted free agent Vincent Trocheck as well as some other pending free agents.
Rowe will spend a lot of time on contracts as well as scouting and negotiations. Joyce will remain the general manager of Florida’s AHL affiliate and Werier, a corporate lawyer, will continue working financials within the complex league salary cap.
“Dale is an unbelievable talent evaluator, and he wanted to get out on the road more, get to Europe and see more of the amateur players,” Rowe said. “Now, he’s not locked into the office as much.”
Florida was very busy at the trade deadline last February with Tallon and his staff working to identify players they were interested in and then finding a way to acquire them.
Before the deadline, the Panthers’ hockey operations department gathered in Sunrise with Viola apparently going around the room getting input from everyone on players the team was targeting.
Yet, why after the most successful regular season in franchise history, do the Panthers make these moves now?
“What we’re really doing is formalizing the structure within our organization,” Luukko said. “This is our team and as our operation evolves, we’re going to need that depth. It’s really a collaborative effort. It’s all of us working for one goal. ... Everything we do is together. When we make a decision to acquire a player or make a trade, it’s a group discussion. We make every move collaboratively.”
Said Tallon: “You don’t want to leave any stones unturned. We need to win, and that’s the goal and we’ll do it any way we can. You would be foolish not to incorporate everything at your disposal. As I’ve said before, it takes an army to make this work. I need all the help I can get.”
As far as the perception Tallon was being pushed out of Florida as he was in Chicago in 2009, Luukko says that’s simply not the case.
Tallon was given a three-year extension by the team in December.
“Dale is our leader; he’s at the top,” Luukko said. “He has been a first-class GM for many years. ... I’ve known Dale for more than 25 years and have worked well with him. This whole group works well together.”